The Critic(al Subject)

W. Werner et al. (eds.), 'The Law of International Lawyers. Reading Martti Koskenniemi' (Cambridge University Press, 2016)

Helsinki Legal Studies Research Paper No. 38

17 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2015 Last revised: 15 Mar 2016

See all articles by Sahib Singh

Sahib Singh

University of Helsinki; University of Cambridge

Date Written: August 20, 2015


Critical international legal thought often invests considerable faith in the potential of the subject; I argue that this may, in some cases, be a misplaced strategy. This essay excavates and critiques the image of the critical subject and the critic that is presupposed by Koskenniemi in his 'From Apology to Utopia'. It proceeds in three steps. Part I examines how the various theories and methods of Koskenniemi's text leaves us with no knowledge of the critical subject. Part II demonstrates that his text presupposes into existence a subject rooted in a Sartrean metaphysic; identifying the elitist, unhappy and constantly burdened character of this subject. Part III then demonstrates how this critical subject is structured by specific contradictions that may disable it from realizing the emancipatory politics of critical thought. More importantly, it attempts to show how this subject may very well embed the prevailing cultural ideology of our time, rather than challenge it. And yet, despite these antinomies and limits, many young scholars still continue to believe in this image of the critical subject; because this is the work of myth.

Keywords: The Critic; Legal Theory; Critical International Legal Thought; Martti Koskenniemi; Subject; Identity; Liberalism

Suggested Citation

Singh, Sahib, The Critic(al Subject) (August 20, 2015). W. Werner et al. (eds.), 'The Law of International Lawyers. Reading Martti Koskenniemi' (Cambridge University Press, 2016); Helsinki Legal Studies Research Paper No. 38. Available at SSRN:

Sahib Singh (Contact Author)

University of Helsinki ( email )

Yliopistonkatu 3
Helsinki, 00014

University of Cambridge ( email )

10 West Road
Cambridge, CB3 9DZ
United Kingdom

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